(Corrects names of those nominated for Oscar in paragraph 15)
By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES, April 9 As the opening scenes of
"Rio 2" begins, so does the beat.
The film, a follow up to 2011's successful animated film
"Rio," picks up where the first one left off, with hip-shaking
rhythms and Tropicalia styles along Rio de Janeiro's famous
But this time around, the movie about a family of the rare
Spix's macaw birds shows off the South American county's diverse
musical heritage, branching off from the signature bossa nova
and Carnival music of the Atlantic Coast and venturing into the
rhythms of the Amazon region.
"It's hard to think about Rio or Brazil without thinking
about music," said director Carlos Saldanha, a Rio native.
In the 3D animated film, which will be released by 20th
Century Fox in U.S. and Canadian theaters on Friday,
music works as a vehicle to help illustrate the melting pot of
Brazilian culture, the 49-year-old director said.
"This was always the kind of stuff that came to my head when
I was making this movie," he added. "It has to have a very
integrated musical component to it because I wanted to be able
to explore different rhythms, different styles and vibes."
The film begins with the vibrantly blue family of macaws,
headed by the father Blu, as voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, and
mother Jewel (Anne Hathaway), who leave their bird refuge in Rio
for a trip to the Amazon to find a possible colony of their
critically endangered brothers and sisters.
But first, the movie aims to draw in audiences with its
biggest hope for a radio hit: R&B singer Janelle Monae's song
"What Is Love," a Brazilian-influenced dance track that is
supposed to evoke Rio's roaring New Year's Eve parties.
"What Is Love," which was delivered to radio stations two
weeks ago, features the drums of marching bands and whistles
familiar to Carnival music. Monae said she wanted the song to
serve as an overture to the film's score.
"I gathered sounds from street performers; I recorded the
ocean," the singer said. "I've always thought cinematically ...
We (Saldanha and I) said, 'How can we make all these Brazilian
colors come through in the music?'"
Although the soundtrack to "Rio 2" is not expected to
duplicate the runaway success of Disney's "Frozen," which has
sold nearly 2 million copies with the hit song "Let It Go," the
movie coincides with global attention being focused on Brazil,
the host of this year's World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016
'CAN'T HELP BUT SHAKE'
The movie's journey into the depths of the Amazon lets
Saldanha and the film's executive music producer, bossa nova
legend Sergio Mendes, tap into Brazil's interior through artists
like body percussion group Barbatuques and Uakti, a group that
uses homemade instruments.
Mendes, 73, who broke out in 1966 with the international hit
"Mas Que Nada," a jazzy samba he performed with his group Brasil
'66, said regional rhythms of musicians like Carlinhos Brown
from the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, reflected the
cultural melange of European colonization and slaves from
"Samba came from Africa, so if you listen to a samba in Rio
there's a different kind of beat," Mendes said. "When you go to
Bahia, they have a different kind of beat for samba as well,
different instruments. It's still samba, but they have their own
accent, which makes it very interesting."
Saldanha and Mendes worked again with film composer John
Powell on the score. Mendes earned an Oscar nod along with Brown
and lyricist Siedah Garrett for "Real in Rio," their original
song from the first film.
"Naturally, Brazilian rhythms are very strong," Saldanha
said. "Even if you can't understand the rhythm, you can't help
but shake your body. ... We really tried to tap into (that)."
"Rio 2" has already grossed $55 million in Europe and
elsewhere after it was released last week. The film is expected
to gross $39 million in its opening weekend in North America,
according to Boxoffice.com, which is in line with the first
"Rio" movie, and it should earn the bulk of its ticket sales
from abroad, much like the first.
Saldanha said his hope is that the music and film will
complement each other, drawing in audiences on both fronts. For
him, the film had a strong personal resonance.
"I did the movie because I wanted to write a love letter to
my county," he said. "I wanted to write something that I felt
connected to myself."
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey, editing by G Crosse)